“I would like to witness the birth of the theory of everything”

Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana

Elhuyar Zientzia

Jacinto Iturbe Barrenetxea (Bilbao, 1951) received the Elhuyar Award for Merit CAF–Elhuyar in 2023, for his work in scientific dissemination and in the normalization of Eus. In fact, at the University of Bilbao (which would later become the University of the Basque Country) he studied chemistry and in 1974 presented his first Tesina written in Basque. Creator of textbooks in Basque Chemistry, he was one of the pioneers in the writing of textbooks in Chemistry and in the teaching of Eus subjects. Euskaltzaindia named eus kalain urgazle in 2006. He has been a professor for several years at the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of the Basque Country, but is currently retired. He received the prize with satisfaction and thanks and responded enthusiastically to the questions.

Ed. Iñigo Ibañez/Elhuyar

What has surprised, altered or surprised you most since you started working?

I started last June in a two-year stay in the United States.

At the end of the chemical studies I have been working in the Faculty of Sciences of the UPV/EHU for almost five years and, for various reasons, the research in those years did not have to take place in a university. So when I had the opportunity to access a cutting-edge research center, I went there to the Oak Ridge Lab in the United States.

It was a new world in every sense: how work was organized, the technical and human means, the debates to develop ideas… everything was different. The techniques that I once saw in books or magazines were there, were real and waited for me. I tried to learn and assimilate as much as possible.

The conclusion I drew was: If you want to do research in science and technology in Euskal Herria, you need to go to the places where you do cutting-edge research and learn -- absorb -- how you do it. Fortunately, over time we have seen more and more people going to exile centers, how relations with other centers and research centers have been strengthened, how collaborations have multiplied… In recent years, in the Basque Country, research centers have been created, public universities have become research centers, and we see how they come to see and study from other centers, how research is done here.

What would you like to witness about revolution or discovery?

Well, in view of the state of science, I would like it to be the birthplace of the Theory of Everything, to harmonize quantum mechanics and relativity. Because the knowledge and foundations of technological progress that have contributed both have been fundamental to the realization of the current scientific landscape. And with the theory of All Knowledge will certainly be broader and deeper.

Until this theory comes, I'll have to settle for accelerators and new particles, genetics and CRISPR-cas9 editing, substance synthesis with desired properties, the unpredictable ability of artificial intelligence or quantum computers, the applications of quantum complexity they promise...

Eusko Jaurlaritzako Industria, Merkataritza eta Turismo Saila